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Madison CEO initiative trains teenagers as entrepreneurs

MADISON – Several philanthropic factions have united to implement “Madison CEO,” an initiative for high school seniors to nurture skills as entrepreneurs.

Madison ECO will encourage entrepreneurship as a vehicle for economic development in the community. Seniors in Madison City Schools can participate at no cost to the district or the student.

The catalyst for Madison CEO was Dr. Jason Greene, Dean of Business at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Greene wants economic development to thrive more in Madison County. He was familiar with Midland Institute, the nation’s premier company for entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurs and business leaders uniting to increase business development in our community is a win-win. Often times, students go to college but never return home. CEO highlights the potential of returning home to start a business and build a career,” board member Suzanne Katschke said.

Madison CEO’s board was formed in partnership with MCS, UAH, local business leaders and community stakeholders, Katschke said. Other board members are Greene, Salemmah Ahmed, Adherence LLC; Stephanie Bostick, Bob Jones High School; Leigh Christian, Plans to Prosper Consulting; Chakri Deverapalli, UAH; Dr. Heather Donaldson, Madison City Schools; Matt Jones, RocketHatch; Steve Lessman, Signalink; Taron Thorpe, CB&S Bank; and Gina Turner, Madison Hospital.

The program will begin with 20 students and then grow. “This non-traditional experiential learning program will foster hands-on, real-world learning,” Katschke said. “Students won’t meet in a classroom. Their classroom will be local business visits with entrepreneurs sharing their lessons and story.”

During the school year, Madison CEO students will visit up to 50 local businesses. Each student will create two business plans, leading to creating their own business. At year-end, a trade show will highlight students’ work. “Entrepreneurship is something business leaders understand and desire to cultivate,” Katschke said.

Students likely will decide to pursue service businesses, product business and computer-based businesses, along with clothing lines, restaurants, software companies, landscaping and apps.

“Any opportunity we can provide to our students to enhance their learning experience is a gift to our community,” Katschke said. “Different things elicit student interest. CEO will meet a need in our community to support not only local entrepreneurs but encourage entrepreneurial development.

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